Time management

What are the main causes for delay in project completion?

Learn what are the main causes of project delays so that you can overcome them and hit deadlines 100% of the time.


The most recent Pulse of the Profession report that was released in 2021 comprised of an online survey of 3,950 project professionals representing an array of industries and regions. 

The report demonstrates insightful data on how organisations work and the impact it has on their project performance. In general, results are more positive than previous years but there is still room for improvement. 

When asked what percentage of projects were completed in time in the past 12 months, the average was only 55%. This means that only half the projects done were completed on the desired deadline. 

Of course, at times the reasons why a project didn’t meet its expected deadlines can be completely out of your teams' control.  However, the bottom line is if you want to build a strong reputation, then you have to keep up with your promised deadlines.


Consequences of project delays 


The consequences of delaying projects add up over time and don’t only affect your clients' perception of your business, which is already not good. 

Other high costs of missing project deadlines: 

  • Losing confidence and tampering with team relationships
  • Losing existing clients and potential new ones  
  • Missing out on opportunities for business growth 
  • Encouraging overwork and burnout 
  • Damaging your overall brand image


Change in organization’s priorities 


Changes in priorities have proven to be one of the main culprits for projects not getting completed on time. When managing several projects or dealing with a big backlog, you should prioritise tasks based on importance and urgency.

Each project is different, which means that they have different features, needs, and impacts on your business. If your organisation is not aligned on what is a priority and what can be left for later, you can imagine that your team will be in chaos.


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When workers feel like everything is urgent, then time will not be well distributed between tasks and most likely nothing will be done correctly. Prioritisation and time management go hand-in-hand. But mutually agreeing with your team the process of completion for each project is not enough.

Even though your goals can be aligned it doesn’t mean that individuals will know the most efficient way to manage their time in regards to priorities. If team members are not guided on how to continue with their tasks, they might end up underestimating how much time important tasks need to be successfully completed. Which will obviously lead to delays.


Change in project objectives 


Project objectives can be considered to be detailed and specific goals. These objectives should be stated clearly before even starting the project, as it will impact every decision from start to finish. They must be measurable and contain key performance indicators to track both project and business performance.

These objectives, at times, may change, which will obviously affect how the project is dealt with. This can happen at any time and from anyone, for example by upper management, clients, end-users and so forth. However, the most common and dismissed reason is the lack of appropriate planning. 


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Changes in objectives lead to a lack of clarity within your team. If members are not sure about what they are working towards it significantly injures their productivity. How do they know where they have to be if the path is not clear? 

If your whole organization is not up to date with changes in project objectives you run the risk of tasks not being completed correctly or in line with the desired expectations. Team members will not feel proactive or autonomous to continue completing the requirements necessary for a successful project hand-in. This means more time wasted in meetings, discussing and maybe even arguing rather than bringing something of value. 


Poor communication


It shouldn’t be surprising that ineffective communication has a negative impact on the rate of project completion. What should be surprising though, is that this continues to be a major red flag for many companies as they lack effective communication management. 

Any stakeholder who is involved in a project of any size understands the need for good communication for things to go smoothly. We don’t mean a casual conversation between team members but a strong flow of information that is shared to ensure company growth. According to the Project Management Insitute, the lack of proper communication leads to project failures 30% of the time


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It’s a no brainer that this can cause devastating issues to your team and overall business but why is it an issue is the question. One basic reason is the fact that communication is often taken for granted. Leaders have a tendency to assume that the right topics are being discussed in in-person and virtual meetings, emails, updated documents and so forth. When, in reality, your team might have no clue what's going on. 

The issue is, even if your team tries to keep up to date with everything, fragmented communication causes a lack of visibility and direction when trying to understand the big picture. For example, project objectives and goals. That’s why it's essential to put a communication plan in place. It’s reported that high performing organizations that complete 80% of projects are twice as likely to have one. With this, members will know exactly what is expected to achieve the project's desired goals. 


Inaccurate cost estimates 


Anything in business involves money, so it’s expected that a budget can easily impact the faith of a project. The problem is that budgeting is not easy in any shape or form. It’s not as straightforward as negotiating the lowest price possible and expecting perfect execution from your team. Actually, over 50% of project managers have reported budget overrun as a reason for project failure. 

As projects move forward expenses accumulate, and we’re not only talking about the expected costs but also all the unexpected ones that come along the way. The risky part of budget management is finding a healthy balance so that you can get the highest ROI possible for each project. 


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Especially because your project might be doomed already for the start. If you accept to work on projects with a realistically low value, then the chances of delay are pretty high. This is often because of unforeseen events that go beyond human control. 

Most importantly, low budgets do not handle risk well. As the budget starts to get to its end, the necessary resources needed for completion become limited. Project managers will find themselves hoping that nothing goes wrong, which let’s be honest, something always does. Small expenses like paying for a new tool, hiring a freelancer or even paying after hour salaries can halt the project completion date. 

Not only, but poor budget management will also almost always impact the performance and quality of the work completed. Either because your team is overworked, there is a lack of necessary tools or value is not being taken into consideration to stay under budget. 


Lack of proper resource planning


 Managing a team is one of the most challenging aspects of higher career positions. This is because it often requires a unique type of skill set. Of course, leadership skills are essential but you’ll also have to take into consideration your analytical skills, budgeting and project management skills. Studies have stated that 11% of resources are wasted due to a lack of good project management processes. 

Resource management entails organizing the necessary resources to complete a project in the most efficient and cost-effective way. It also takes into consideration time management to produce the best possible outcome.  So, it should be quite understandable how a lack of planning in this regard can affect the timeline of a project. 


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To start with, if your team's workload is not optimized to everyone's capacity, there will be an imbalance in execution. Some members might have very little to do and spend most of their time on unnecessary tasks while others are overloaded with work. This will not only cause conflict within your team but those who are overworked will have a decrease in performance and overall productivity. 

Not only, if you’re not aware of what each member of the team brings of value to the projects, then tasks could be assigned to the wrong people. At times, the reason why a project was delayed is that the person who was assigned it didn’t have the right skill set to complete it on time. Selecting the right people for each project is crucial if you want to hit every single deadline given.




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